The National Union of Students’ (NUS) LGBT officer has accused veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of being racist and ‘transphobic’ ahead of a debate where the pair were due to speak.
Fran Cowling, a transgendered PhD student at Nottingham University, told debate organisers in e-mails that she would only take part if Mr. Tatchell was banned.
She cited an open letter Mr. Tatchell signed in the Observer last year in support of free speech in universities, after a series of supposedly “transphobic” speakers such as feminists Germane Greer and Julie Bindel where banned.
According to Pink News, Mr. Tatchell had tried to reason with Ms. Cowling directly, before she blocked him from sending her emails.
He explained: “Fran Cowling – apparently acting in the name of the National Union of Students – has denounced me as a racist and a transphobe.
“She has a right to refuse to speak alongside me, but not to make witchhunting, McCarthy-style, untrue allegations”, he said.
Adding: “I have never used racist language or harassed anyone. I have challenged Fran Cowling and NUS LGBT to produce evidence for these claims”.
The accusation were seemingly so absurd that even the outspoken Transgendered journalist and activist Paris Lees stepped up to defend him. Many students, too, have distanced themselves from the NUS, which claims to represent them.
@ParisLees The issue is not refusing to share a platform, but the McCarthyite false allegations of racism & transphobia
— Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell) February 15, 2016
The NUS’s Women’s Officer, Vice President of Welfare and of Higher Education have all since joined the attacks on Mr. Tatchell on social media. However, the NUS told the Guardian that they had not “no-platformed” Mr. Tatchell, and that it was not yet their policy to ban him.
Banning Mr. Tatchell would certainly be one of the most extreme cases of campus censorship seen in the UK so far. However, seeing as he has recently turned his attention to free speech and campaigning against Muslim homophobia, it should come as no surprise.
@sapphictastic Disgraceful. Some of the left are the new right
— Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell) <a